Bill Hardman To Retire After 21 Years at STS, Half-Century in Tourism

ATLANTA, Ga. – Bill Hardman, president and CEO of Southeast Tourism Society (STS), is retiring after almost 50 years in the tourism industry. His tourism career began in 1969 with seasonal work at Six Flags Over Georgia and was capped by 21 years with STS.

Retirement will begin in August after Hardman completes the 18th STS Congressional Summit on Travel and Tourism, an annual advocacy program that has been a special passion for him since 2001. The STS Congressional Summit pulls tourism leaders from the 12 STS states to Washington, D.C., to keep congressional leaders informed about issues important to the tourism industry.

Monica Smith, most recently the vice president of sales and services for Visit Jacksonville, will become president and CEO of STS upon Hardman’s retirement, according to Tim Todd, Interim Chairman of the STS Board of Directors. Smith, who has more than 26 years’ experience in hospitality and tourism, also has worked for the convention and visitors bureaus of Macon, Ga., Newport Beach and Pasadena, Calif., and Cleveland, Ohio.

Hardman’s longest tenure in the tourism industry began in 1997 when he was hired to succeed his father, also Bill Hardman, as head of STS. The elder Hardman was Georgia’s first state tourism director, and he organized the creation of STS in 1983. It began with seven states and gradually grew to 12, which stretch from Virginia and West Virginia to Louisiana and Arkansas.

“I was born into the travel, tourism and hospitality industry, and it is an industry I love. Retirement is a strange concept because I don’t feel I’ll ever be separated from the industry,” Hardman said.

“I am particularly proud of how STS has grown and how it strengthens the tourism industry throughout the entire region with its programs of networking, recognition, advocacy and education,” he continued.

Hardman cited STS Marketing College, a three-year professional development program, for its trendsetting role in continuing education. Almost 1,100 people have earned certification as Travel Marketing Professionals from STS Marketing College.

Prior to STS, Hardman’s career included being president and CEO of Atlanta’s DeKalb Convention & Visitors Bureau from 1987-1997, director of promotions for Atlanta's Cumberland Mall, director of promotions and public relations for the Omni International Complex (now the CNN Center in Atlanta), director of membership for the Georgia Hospitality & Travel Association and director of advertising and membership for the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau.

He is on the industry advisory board of directors for the Cecil B. Day School of Hospitality at Georgia State University and has served on the boards of Destinations International and the United States Travel Association. He chaired the Georgia Olympic Marketing Task Force for the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.

He was a delegate to the White House Conference on Travel and Tourism, and he advised the U.S. Secretary of the Interior and the Director of the National Parks Service for two years as a member of the National Park System Advisory Board.

His industry honors include twice being named Georgia's Travel Industry Leader of the Year, receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award in Tourism from Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue and receiving the Tourism Icon Award from the Dahlonega-Lumpkin County Convention & Visitors Bureau.

About Southeast Tourism Society (STS)

Founded in 1983, Southeast Tourism Society ( ) promotes and develops tourism in its 12 member states of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia. Its headquarters are in Atlanta. Membership includes state travel offices, convention and visitors bureaus, lodging properties, attractions, travel media and other travel-related organizations.


Wendy Thomas

Robin North